The Rundown: Free Agent Clock Ticking on Hoyer, Contreras Meets St. Louis Press, Cardinals Pursuing Rodón

The post-Winter Meetings rumor mill ground to a halt over the weekend and you should be rightfully antsy with the laissez-faire attitude radiating from the corner of Clark and Addison. The Cubs are no longer mentioned in rumors linking them to the better free agents with the same velocity we saw a week ago. Hope has turned to worry, and there is a crisis of confidence among the fans of Chicago’s North Side baseballers.

Cody Bellinger and Jameson Taillon are the team’s newest acquisitions, but they’re not marquee signings. Most teams would sign either player as an inexpensive way to finish the spending season. The Cubs are distancing themselves from St. Louis after losing Willson Contreras to the Cardinals, just in the wrong direction. Despite assurances from Chicago’s ownership group, Jed Hoyer remains reluctant to participate in baseball’s new economy.

Perhaps the president of baseball operations is saving his pennies for next winter when Shohei Ohtani and Manny Machado could be available. That seems shortsighted since neither player — if available — will come any cheaper than the likes of Carlos Correa, Carlos Rodón, and Dansby Swanson. Let’s not forget that the teams that are not afraid to spend money will also be bidding for the services of Ohtani next year.

If Ohtani and Machado make it to the open market, they will be the best of one of the weakest free-agent classes in history. Next winter’s catalog of available players is chock full of bargains and delicately aged periphery additions, which is right in Hoyer’s wheelhouse. In the meantime, the Cubs still need a middle infielder, a platoon first baseman, another outfielder, a catcher, and more pitching.

There’s also the matter of extending Nico Hoerner and Ian Happ, though there is nothing new to report on that front. Urgency does not motivate Hoyer, apparently, though the same can’t be said of his bosses. The MLB market for free agents has changed drastically in three weeks, but it looks like Hoyer will refuse to adapt. Tick tock, Jed. Tick tock.

Cubs News & Notes

Odds & Sods

Shark in the waters.

Monday Stove

The Reds are looking to trade shortstop prospects for outfield prospects.

The Giants are having trouble recruiting free agents.

San Francisco did sign starter Sean Manaea to a two-year, $25 million contract very early this morning.

The Yankees are preparing to offer a contract to Rodón.

The Padres have turned their attention to signing Vázquez.

Dylan Cease and Julio Rodriguez will receive the biggest pre-arbitration bonuses as specified by the league’s most recent CBA.

From the Ken Rosenthal Files

Here is some great stuff from Rosenthal’s “What I’m Hearing…” ($) column for The Athletic.

  • The sudden generosity teams are showing with elite free agents in their 30s will prompt some players to adjust their approach to the open market. In fact, it’s happening already.
  • The Braves’ long-term extensions for younger core players are looking smarter and smarter with each new contract doled out by their NL East competitors.
  • Teams are making a renewed push in trade discussions for A’s catcher Sean Murphy, and the negotiations for Vázquez also appear to be gaining momentum.
  • The Yankees, Rangers, Blue Jays, Rays, and Marlins are among the teams chasing young outfielders in trades.

Extra Innings

There is a case to be made that team owners have become happy to kick luxury taxes to the curb in a win-at-all-costs paradigm shift. The Mets, Phillies, and Padres will exceed the CBT threshold this year, and the Yankees and Dodgers could join them.

Monday Morning Six-Pack

  1. Hanukkah begins on Sunday evening. I don’t want to go all Ed Begley Jr. from “A Mighty Wind,” but Hanukkah sameach! “The naches that I’m feeling right now… ’cause your dad was like mishpocha to me. When I heard I got these tickets to the Folksmen, I let out a geshreeyeh, and I’m running with my friend… running around like a vilde chaye, right into the theater, in the front row! So we’ve got the shpilkes, ’cause we’re sittin’ right there… and it’s a mitzvah, what your dad did, and I want to try to give that back to you. ‘Oh keinehora,’ I say, and God bless him.”
  2. While a $16 salad is never justified, it may be a little more understandable right now. Veggie prices in the US have surged 38% in November alone, and are up more than 80% on an annual basis, per a new Labor Department report.
  3. Kevin Hart, Jimmy Fallon, Paris Hilton, and Madonna are among the defendants in a class-action lawsuit that accuses stakeholders of Yuga Labs, the parent company of Bored Ape Yacht Club, of conspiring to defraud potential investors.
  4. Quarterback Caleb Williams of USC is this year’s NCAAF Heisman Trophy Winner.
  5. A bomb threat at Milwaukee’s Riverside Theater forced an evacuation and mid-show cancellation of a performance by Patti LeBelle.
  6. Elon Musk has relaunched Twitter Blue. Celebrate accordingly, please, and thank you.

They Said It

  • “I’m thankful for the Cubs. I’m thankful for their fans. But now, I’m looking forward to beating the Chicago Cubs. It’s part of the game. It’s part of the business. I’m going to do everything I can to help the Cardinals win.” – Contreras
  • “I said to myself, ‘I would like to be part of something like that – a team that’s always looking forward to [winning].” – Contreras
  • “We have a lot of offers out there and we’ll continue to make offers. Whether things come to fruition or not, you never know. It won’t be through a lack of putting offers out there and trying.” – Hoyer

Monday Walk-Up Song

Milwaukeeans were bummed they did not get to see LaBelle’s potentially scorching encore.

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